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YOUR HEALTH: Taking pec tears seriously

Pec tears can turn serious if not treated correctly or if the patient becomes impatient.

GLEN BURNIE, Maryland – A pec muscle injury is something is a pain in the upper chest muscles that's being seen more and more in pro wrestlers, body builders, and even a growing number of military servicemen.

It's a condition that requires surgery, therapy, and time to put a patient back together.

Oscar Puerto knows it first hand.  He's passionate about staying in shape.

The high school football standout and former boxer had been on an aggressive weight lifting program to build body mass.  Six months ago, it caught up with him during a bench press.

"I'm on my last set, and I feel my shoulder telling me, I should stop now. I didn't listen. I thought I had one more in me."

Oscar felt sudden pain, and lost control of his arm.

He had no idea he had torn his pectoral muscle, the large muscle that goes from the chest wall through the arm.

"It tears off and they feel a pop and they have severe bruising and swelling," explained orthopedic surgeon Dr. John-Paul Rue.   "Then they have a deformity because the muscle tendon unit has pulled off."

Dr. John-Paul Rue is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports injuries.

To fix the deformity Dr. Rue made an incision in the chest wall and stretched the muscles back into place, anchoring them to the bone.

"They should return to full functionality 100 percent within six months," said Dr. Rue.

Eager to get back into shape, Oscar started back too early, and developed a hematoma that created a crater-like hole and required another surgery.

This time, he's following doctor's orders, doing nightly exercises to improve his range of motion.
He's looking forward to going back to the gym when his body's ready.

TREATMENT:   Dr. Rue says the process starts with getting imaging, such as an MRI, to confirm.   “That helps give us a road map of where to see it and how much retraction. We make an incision in the skin. We find the tendon and basically pull it back over to the bone and anchor it securely to the bone,” said Dr. Rue.   He says the surgery takes about an hour and a half, “One of the hardest things we have is ensuring compliance.   And that's because that's just the nature of the people who get this type of injury.   So we like to protect our repair with a sling and protected motion for about six weeks.   Then we start a graduated progression with physical therapy for motion and strength.   By about three months out from this surgery, most patients have full motion and strength.”

In addition to athletes, Dr. Rue treats military servicemen at Walter Reed Medical Center.   He says the pec tear is now one of the top three non-battle injuries that requires surgery.

Dr. Rue says many servicemen, especially those stationed overseas are using their downtime to stay in top shape and may be overtraining.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.